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Devices/smartphones

Huawei P8 Launch: Cue Applause!

LONDON -- Out of curiosity and to see which mobile operators might show up, I attended the global launch of Huawei's new smartphone, the P8, at a beautiful location on the banks of the river Thames Wednesday.

If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be "razzmatazz." Hundreds of customers, partners, media and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. staff attended from all over Europe and beyond (I would estimate 800 or so) to witness a polished multimedia presentation lasting about 80 minutes. (See Huawei P8 Launch in Pics: It's Showtime!.)

It soon became apparent that the role of the Huawei staff was to lead the "spontaneous" response each time a new feature was announced by Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu. "The P8 has the world's first 13-megapixel camera with 4-color RGBW imaging!" Cue audible gasps, whoops and frantic applause. And when Yu announced that there was a P8 Max version (with a massive 6.8-inch screen compared with the 5.2-inch screen of the regular P8) I'm sure someone faked a faint.

It was slightly comical and, as it turns out, unnecessary. It was clear that the device specialists were lapping up the details and based on the sea of smartphones (hard to say of what make in the dark) being raised to take pictures of the presentation and the enthusiasm shown during the post-launch opportunity for some hands-on testing of the features, the audience was impressed.

It was also very clear that this is Huawei's attempt to match Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) -- Yu often compared the P8 to the iPhone 6, particularly when it came to talking up the Huawei device's camera, which has been designed to capture high-quality images in low light situations. All the details can be found in Huawei's official press release.

Here are a few observations of my own.

  • Huawei is known for affordable devices but this is clearly aimed at the high end of the market, with prices starting at €499 (US$531).

  • It has a function that blocks abnormal power usage by apps (for example, while in standby mode) to help extend battery life. That seems like a very smart move.

  • It has a new "gesture" feature called "knuckle sense." Sounds daft but it is actually very clever: Using your knuckles, a double-tap on the screen takes an instant screengrab and offers it up as a picture for sharing via multiple apps. Also using your knuckles, you can crop part of the screen and save that cropped area as an image. I tried it and it works really well.

  • If you leave your phone somewhere and can't find it, you can call out to it and it will respond with a pre-set tone or reply (which the user sets up) until you locate it. The hard part will be resisting the temptation to set the recognized call with profanities... That's OK in your own home but if you can't locate your device at a meeting or your auntie's house, then it could be awkward.

  • The stage management of the launch was such that there was no audience Q&A session and the only presenters were from Huawei. I would have liked to have heard from a mobile operator and other non-Huawei folks about market requirements.


    For the latest developments in the mobile networks and services market, visit the dedicated mobile content channel here at Light Reading.


    When it comes to smartphones my knowledge is limited, so I always look to the industry specialist who, I believe, has the most informed take on such matters, Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight . Wood very kindly shares his views in real time on Twitter: Check out his feed right here. His overall impression is that the device has the design and functionality that would appeal to users and it has some neat tricks in terms of its design around dual-SIM slots and components. However, Huawei has a "mountain to climb" to position itself as a "premium brand" that can match the likes of Apple and Samsung and that could limit its market share growth.

    That may be true but it's also worth noting that Huawei, thanks to its domestic market and sheer persistence, has built a mobile device business that generated revenues of $12.2 billion in 2014. (See Huawei Reports Consumer Business Group Financials and Huawei Profits Soar on 4G, Smartphone Sales.)

    According to IDC, Huawei is now the fourth-largest smartphone vendor globally, commanding 6.3% of the market (by unit shipments) in the fourth quarter of 2014, despite being only the number-three player in China. (See Xiaomi Leads China Smartphone Market, Says IDC and Smartphone Vendor Market Share, Q4 2014.)

    We'll have to wait to see what impact the P8 has on Huawei's Consumer business. The vendor didn't announce any mobile operator partners but said the device is now available in 30 countries, including China, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK and will then become available globally.

    So while I'll have to wait for another day to see what mobile operators think of Huawei's efforts to match Apple, the launch was worth attending just for the experience.

    — Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

  • Kruz 4/16/2015 | 12:24:09 PM
    Re: Marginality Yet another attempt from Huwaei to please the west with a smart phone when they managed to perform well in the sufficient local market. 
    mendyk 4/16/2015 | 12:17:09 PM
    Re: Marginality Apple's biggest asset by far is its standing as a bulletproof brand that is backed by customers with extreme loyalty who don't necessarily care that they are overpaying for a product. Without that, the rest of the model is pretty easy to duplicate.
    Mitch Wagner 4/16/2015 | 12:13:47 PM
    Re: Razzle dazzle
    Mitch Wagner 4/16/2015 | 12:08:53 PM
    Re: Marginality Apple has a brilliantly innovative business model: (1) Sell a product people want (2) cut manufacturing costs (3) Sell the product for more than they spend making it (4) Don't make too big a deal out of market share. You can't make payroll with market share. (5) Profit!

    What will these crazy Silicon Valley kids think of next. 
    Mitch Wagner 4/16/2015 | 12:06:41 PM
    Razzle dazzle
    mendyk 4/16/2015 | 10:23:42 AM
    Marginality Another key factor with Huawei is that it typically focuses on market share rather than on margins when it decides to compete in a market. It's hard to imagine Apple losing much of its uber-loyal customer base, but other device makers are now on notice.
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